Centralia’s Rotary Club held a ribbon-cutting Wednesday for the newest addition to the Rotary Riverside Park — an ADA-approved playground for young kids, complete with a playable xylophone, a “story time” play area, and plenty of climbable features.

Although Centralia Rotary Project Foundation President Lance Fletcher said the new facility is for ages 2 to 5, that didn’t stop the Centralia Rotarians from climbing all over it, clanging out melodies on the kid-friendly instruments as they celebrated the completion of the new project. 

The park has seen several new additions and upgrades in past years, like the 44,000-square-foot skatepark and picnic shelters. President John Elmore said it’s certainly changed since he was a kid, fishing in the river and playing in the grass.

“We got to thinking, ‘What can we do this time around?’” Fletcher said Wednesday. “We wanted it so it could be wheelchair accessible, it would be safe and small kids with disabilities could work on something.”

The bouncy, colored tiles under the playground are flush against the sidewalk so wheelchairs can easily roll onto the play area, and low-to-the-ground activities will make it easier for all young kids to play. 

Fletcher joked that the Rotary Riverside Park has always been a sort of “step child to Borst Park.” But the Rotary Club has its eye on even more additions, like a soccer field or improvements to the nature trail near the river. And those additions may come sooner than later given the success the club has seen in terms of fundraising. The new playground itself wasn’t cheap, costing roughly $105,000.

“It’s not like you’re getting the stuff from Toys R Us or anything,” Rotarian Debbie Schinnell said. 

Even so, the club’s fundraising efforts weren’t hindered much by the pandemic. In July, the club was seeking $60,000 in donations, which they pledged to match. The total would surpass what was needed for the playground, and Fletcher said $35,000 was raised on top of that. One major grant came from the Sierra Pacific Foundation, but the donations largely came in the form of small, $50 to $100 individual contributions. 

In terms of next steps, Elmore said he’s excited about the two large Rotary Club signs that will be added to the park in the next few weeks. They’re being created with the help of Centralia College’s welding department, and were designed to invoke the region’s railroad history. 

“They just did an awesome job,” Elmore said. 

The Centralia Rotary Club is 100 years old this year, but they’ll most likely wait until 2021 to celebrate because of the pandemic. For now, the new playground is open to the public. 

Fletcher doesn’t expect to see many kids on the new facility until next Spring, seeing as it’s already getting cold and wet. But even in the cold, he said he may stop by to blow off any fallen leaves, just in case. 

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